Happy Birthday to Buddy Bradford, an outfielder who played eleven seasons for the White Sox, Indians, Reds and Cardinals from 1966 to 1976, the same years that I played. I faced him for the first time during our rookie seasons, on October 1, 1966 at White Sox Park. Buddy was the leadoff hitter and started the game with an infield single to Mike Ferraro at third base. He singled again in the bottom of the sixth and scored off Jim Hicks’ hit. In all, he was 2-for-4 that first game, which the Yankees won, 5-3. The game I remember most was June 1, 1976, during my brief time with the Texas Rangers. We were at Comiskey Park and I entered the game in the bottom of the sixth in relief of Steve Hargan. We were ahead 5-3, with the bases loaded and two outs. Buddy was on third. Bill Stein singled to center, scoring Buddy; the inning ended when Juan Beniquez threw out Richie Coggins at home. I have up a leadoff Single to Pat Kelly in the seventh, but then retired Ralph Garr, Bucky Dent and Jorge Orta; our 5-4 lead was protected – for now. In the eighth, I gave up a leadoff double to Jim Spencer. Buddy hit a single to center, scoring Jim and tying the game at 5-5. That was it for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would pitch just twice more before my career would come to an end. But more importantly, the Rangers won 6-5 in the sixteenth inning off Lenny Randle’s RBI double.
One footnote to my last game with Buddy: After the Rangers won, the White Sox lodged a protest. The Rangers had used Bill Singer as the starting pitcher, and he had pitched 6 1/3 innings. After Singer left the game – and while the game was still going on – the Rangers announced that they had traded Bill, along with Mike Cubbage, Roy Smalley and Jim Gideon, to the Minnesota Twins for Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson. American League President Lee McPhail turned down Bill Veeck’s protest, saying that while using players after a trade has been agreed to but before it takes effect is permissible, it should be avoided. This trade came four days after my own trade to the Rangers; that’s how this future Hall of Famer and I became teammates, albeit just for a few weeks.
As long as people were willing to listen to me talk about my one career Triple 47 years ago today, I figured I could relay another memorable hit by one of my favorite pitchers: Sparky Lyle’s only extra base hit as a New York Yankee. It was June 3, 1972, a Saturday afternoon in Chicago. Freddy Beene started the game against Stan Bahnsen. We were down two runs going in to the top of the ninth, and Goose Gossage was on the mound as the White Sox closer. We tied the game, 10-10, after a single by Rusty Torres, a walk by Bobby Murcer, and singles by Roy White and Ron Blomberg. Goose, in a rare blown save, was gone after three batters. The Countess came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth and had a 1-2-3 inning. He did the same thing in the tenth and eleventh innings. He gave up one hit in the twelfth, but Pat Kelly got stranded.
Bobby Murcer led off the top of the thirteenth with a single of Bart Johnson and advanced to second on Roy White’s walk. Bloomie hit a shot to Carlos May in left, but it wasn’t deep enough for Lemon to score. Then Thurman Munson hit a three-run Home Run. Jerry Kenney hit a grounder to short, but was safe at first because of Rich Morales’ throwing error. The second out of the inning came when Bernie Allen flew out to left.
So now the Yankees are up 13-10 and with two outs Ralph Houk kept Sparky in the game. He hit a double that went between Carlos and Jay Johnstone in center, scoring Kenney. He made it to second huffing and puffing, unaccustomed to running to first yet alone an extra base, but that huge smile, sort of like Tweetie Bird looking at Sylvester, is what I remember most. But that wasn’t the best part. Horace Clarke came up to bat and hit a single to center off the first pitch, and The Countess had to run from second to home. He made it, huffing and puffing again – this time I saw no smile. What I would give to watch him do that again!
Apparently unsatisfied with a five-run lead, the Yankee offense continued to rally. Rusty walked and Bobby Murcer hit a three-run Home Run. We went into the bottom of the thirteenth leading the White Sox, 18-10.
The Countess, maybe still a little tired from all that running, scared all of us just a little bit. He gave up a leadoff walk to Dick Allen, who moved to second off Jay’s groundout and to third on Bill Melton’s single. Chuck Brinkman, pinch hitting for the pitcher, singled to left, but Dick couldn’t score off Heeba. So Sparky had the bases loaded, one out, and I think he was still out of breath from all that running. But it was over quickly: Tom Egan hit into a double play. Sparky Lyle was the best!